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It's Simple

December 06, 2020
by Mark David Siegel

Lessons from the experiences of the millions of dedicated health care workers continuing to work during the COVID-19 crisis should be heeded by hospital systems and society in general to improve transmission prevention in all settings.

-Richterman et al., JAMA. 2020;324(21):2155-2156

Hi everyone,

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t have to happen. Not like this. Not this bad.

Here are the facts: Since the pandemic started, 14,357,264 US residents have gotten sick. Yesterday, 211,073 new cases were reported. 101,190 patients were in the hospital: 19,950 in the ICU and 7,005 on ventilators. 272,236 US residents have died. In Connecticut, more people have died than were killed in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam combined. In our hospital, clinicians are being stretched to capacity. Yet, case numbers keep rising, and it will be months before enough people are vaccinated to end the pandemic.

But we don’t have to wait for the vaccines to work. We can control the pandemic now. As my Section Chief, Naftali Kaminski, likes to say, “it’s simple.”

We know how SARS CoV-2 spreads. If we all committed to universal masking and safe social distancing, we’d save thousands of lives. So why don’t we?

Enough ink has been spilled already condemning the federal government’s pandemic response. How many lives could have been saved with clear messages promoting masks? How many more would have been saved with temporary bans on indoor gatherings? How much better would our economy be doing today had we taken essential steps from the start, instead of debating false choices between saving jobs and saving lives?

But let’s not place all blame on the federal government. Controlling the pandemic is a collective responsibility. We know, for example, that states that failed to promote masks and social distancing have fared worse than states like ours that responded appropriately. We saw how Connecticut flattened the curve in the Spring when decisive steps were taken. We could do it again.

But government action is not enough. Little will change if individuals don’t commit to simple measures. We need to wear masks, without fail. We need to forego indoor gatherings with friends and family outside our immediate circle, even during the holidays. At work, we need to spread out for meals. We need to encourage patients, family, friends, and anyone who will listen to do the same.

These measures work. The city of Melbourne, Australia has essentially ended the pandemic. Viral spread to healthcare workers rarely happens when patients and clinicians wear masks.

With vaccinations coming, the pandemic’s end is tantalizingly close. But widespread immunity is still months away. Until then, we need to wear masks and keep our distance. We need to advocate for sound policy. We need to spread the word. Together, we can save lives. It’s that simple.

Have a good Sunday, everyone. Stay safe,

Mark

For further reading:

Hospital-Acquired SARS-CoV-2 Infection. Lessons for Public Health

How Melbourne eradicated Covid-19

New Mexico shut down nearly everything to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed by covid. It wasn’t enough.

State’s COVID-19 death toll outpaces several wars. It’s time — once again — for decisive action

Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic

Submitted by Mark David Siegel on December 06, 2020